My Nana tucked a twenty dollar bill in the pocket of her winter coat at the end of the winter season, the beginning of spring, before sliding the coat into the closet for its hibernation through the bare-armed seasons. Knowing her, each coat was properly dry-cleaned, buttons mended, before slipped on a hanger and housed in the closet.
That way, you’ll have a surprise when it’s time to wear your coat again.
She never hid money in my coat pockets, but she gave me the bills so I could do it for myself. This both pleased me and mystified me twice over: I grew up in Southern California and did not own a true coat. She lived there too, even further south than me, but she had coats. Second, I am not the kind of person who forgets where she puts a twenty, even as a kid.
I am not sure I ever did squirrel those bills away. But this time of year, as the sun stays with us well past five in the afternoon and we’re all starting to feel alive again – buzzing in our hives with anticipation – I allow myself to dream of retiring my winter coat to the closet. Then I reminisce on her tradition of sneaking a treat in the pocket. And I think of her with fondness, standing in the sewing room, with the mirrored, sliding closet door, telling me about stashing away money for future joy.
It seems to me, sneaking a treat into the pocket of a loved one at this time of year is more appropriate. When the snow-cover feels interminable, the single and negative digits become heavy, not joyful. When we need a nudge to stick through just a few more weeks, until mud season, then the verdant.
I’ve never been one to mourn the end of summer, not needing a nudge from a twenty dollar bill to avoid a dread of winter. I love the long, heat-packed days, but I start to yearn for the first cool, crisp, jacket-deserving nights of fall before they arrive. Looking forward to the true still of winter. The first nights I notice the crickets aren’t chirping, and neither are the frogs, but there is frost on the windows in the early morning. A mandate to hold still and take notice. Knowing the joy of a full moon reflecting off fresh snow on a clear, star-sparkled midnight. Making darkness as light as day. Those are some of the best days of the year.
I love the transition, the shift, the impermanence, the cycle, the inevitable change of the seasons. There is a joyfulness in casting off the season of the past calendar months and welcoming in some thing fresh. Warm, cool, different. There is no way to hold back the shift that is to come, only roll with it and let it guide you, without clinging. And I need to be guided to stillness. Do you?
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. -Anne Bradstreet
Unlike the seasons, I hold onto people with a desperate sentimentality. Maybe never in the right ways, but in the same way she lovingly tucked those twenties into coat pockets. Trying to hide them from myself, but hoping I stumble across them on a rainy day when my heart is in desperate need. Stashed polaroids, notes, letters from camp, pebbles, shells, bottle caps, memories as etherial as downy feathers and full moon light. The last letters I wrote her, from faraway Taiwan, weeks before I knew she was in to and out of the hospital. How she scratched the bottoms of my feet with her long, pearlescent fingernails, the striped gymnastics leotards gifted for birthdays, the way she always treated me like an adult – long before I was one. Monte Cristo sandwiches at the fancy restaurant while back-to-school shopping. Packing my heart full of the goodness, and pure presence. Life as is.
I mend the holes in my pockets, over and over, to prevent the mass of the tiny world of her, the one I have sculpted of her ephemera, from falling through, onto the sidewalk or car floor or hardwood below me. Gone forever. I worry about the memories that float out of my mind before I register them, before I know they are even disappeared.
Today I stop to think about all I carry in my pockets. The pockets of my pants and coat and heart and life. The things we all tote with us. Memories stitched into the ventricles of our hearts. Words tattooed to the folds of our minds. The way I hold onto people, and don’t let them leave me. The tiny bits of memories and hopes and sparks and tissue and old-receipts and joy. The ability, after years, for the weight of the bad to sift through, leaving me with the lightness of remembrance and reflection. Sweetness and fondness.
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I started this post weeks ago. As the days were just cresting back to fuller length. At the first hope of retiring my coat to the closet for a stretch of months. The first time spring felt just around the corner, before it felt distant again. Today is my Nana’s birthday. She’s long since passed into a new and different place, but she’ll always be tucked in my pocket, and I’ll always carry her with me.